Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Farewell, Gordon Brown. You weren't that bad
This piece of mine appears in The First Post
Neil Clark: Brown should have strung the bankers up from the lamp-posts – it’s what the public wanted
He's been called the worst Prime Minister ever - and that was by a politician from his own party. But was Gordon Brown, who announced that he was stepping down as Labour leader yesterday, really that bad?
The biggest charge made against Brown is that he has left Britain with a record budget deficit, expected to rise to 12 per cent of GDP later this year - the highest in the EU.
But his refusal to make swingeing cuts in public spending during the worst global recession since the Wall Street Crash meant that for millions of ordinary Britons the slump was nowhere near as painful as the recessions in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, when the Conservatives were running the country.
Despite dire predictions when Britain first went into recession, mortgage repossessions never hit the level of 1992, when 75,000 people lost their homes and interest rates hit 15 per cent. Part of that was due to the Prime Minister's refusal to let 'market forces' destroy people's lives. It has been estimated that around 330,000 families have benefited from the various initiatives that Brown introduced to help struggling home-owners.
The Prime Minister's policy - of waiting for economic recovery before wielding the axe on public spending - may have been slated by the opposition and the Tory media, but it undoubtedly has helped save jobs and kept a roof over many people's heads.
Under his premiership, Brown moved his party, ever so slightly, to a more social democratic position. The top rate of income tax was raised to 50 per cent - a significant move away from Blairism. Northern Rock and leading banks were nationalised. His foreign policy tone was softer than his predecessor's: contrast Brown's calls for an immediate ceasefire when Israel invaded Gaza with his predecessor's dismissals of such calls when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006.
These moves were enough to make Rupert Murdoch's neo-conservative, Tony Blair-adoring media empire turn against him, but not enough to entice former Labour voters, who had grown disillusioned with the rightwards shift of the party under Tony Blair, back into the fold.
You can read the rest of the piece here.